Briynne's Reviews > The Mabinogion

The Mabinogion by Unknown
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's review
Jun 04, 2010

it was ok
Read from May 07 to June 04, 2010

I honestly tried really hard to like this. I wanted to like it and expected to like it, but it just didn't happen. I feel really bad about the two stars because this collection of old Welsh stories has a lot of historical significance. I think I read in the intro that it contains the first recorded Arthurian tales (or something of that nature), and it is supposed to be a cool example of older Celtic mythology adapted into mostly-Christianized, partly-Frenchified court romances and adventures. Granted, that's not everyone's cup of tea, but I thought it sounded really interesting.


I literally could not make sense of half of the stories. Not as in, I couldn't understand the motivations of the characters or wrap my head around the themes or motifs in the stories. I mean, I didn't know what was happening, who it was supposed to be happening to, or why it was supposed to mean anything. Feeling illiterate irritates me, which probably didn't help this book's case, even though my pride isn't its fault. But I think I can say in fairness that the stories were often fragmented, wandering, and lacking in the sort of cohesion that lets the reader get engaged in the story and characters.

I was also insulted and depressed just about every time there was a woman on the page. Obviously it doesn't make sense to judge early medieval Welsh culture on 21st century American terms, but I can't help it. Misogyny isn't cool. In the first four stories, it was outrageous. There's a bit where a young king decides to "bestow" his mother, the dowager queen, on his new buddy. And instead of smacking some respect into him trailer-park style, she's just like, "oh, that's nice dear, sure," and obediently sleeps with the guy the same night. How is that even possible? I wanted to gag repeatedly as I read these stories, and I'm a fairly lousy excuse for a feminist.

Complaints aside, there were a few stories that I did enjoy. The Dream of Maxen was particularly nice, and it was sort of what I wanted from the whole collection. I would recommend checking that story out online for a taste of the genre, but maybe not trying the whole collection.


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